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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Bladder Cancer

News & Features

Dr. Pan © 2010 UC Regents 

Researcher Spotlight: Revolutionizing bladder cancer care  

Chong-xian Pan is designing state-of-the-art molecules that may improve cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment by targeting bladder cancer cells.

New Patient Support

Peer Navigator Program 

Peer Navigator Program provides one-to-one peer support  

This special program matches newly-diagnosed bladder cancer patients with bladder cancer survivors.

Related Resources

bladder cancer cellThe bladder is a hollow, muscular organ shaped like a balloon that sits in your pelvis. Kidneys filter wastes from the blood, which then combine with water to form urine, which travels down thin tubes called ureters to the bladder. The bladder stores urine and empties it through the urethra.

Bladder cancer forms in tissues of the bladder. Most bladder cancers are urothelial carcinomas, which begin in cells that normally make up the inner lining of the bladder. Less common types include squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, which develop in the bladder as a result of chronic irritation and inflammation.

The UC Davis Cancer Center provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for patients with all stages of bladder cancer. Our patients receive all of their care from a team of top academic physicians.

Clinical Trials at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has a large clinical trials network. The close collaboration among our doctors and our research scientists means that new drugs and treatments developed in the laboratory can quickly move to the clinic, offering our patients immediate access to the latest therapies.

Risk Factors

No one knows the exact causes of bladder cancer. Studies have shown that people who get bladder cancer are more likely to have the following risk factors:

  • a history of smoking
  • exposure to certain substances such as rubber, certain dyes and textiles, paint and hairdressing supplies
  • a diet high in fried meats and fat
  • being an older, male or white
  • having an infection caused by a certain parasite

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Signs and Symptoms

The most common sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, a condition that is usually painless. Blood in the urine (hematuria) can either be seen by the patient or detected on routine analysis of the urine. In some women, bladder cancer is often accompanied by a urinary tract infection, which can cause urination frequency and feeling an urgent need to urinate without results. When these symptoms are present, a medical evaluation is needed to rule out bladder cancer.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 


To diagnose bladder cancer, the doctor must first rule out other possible causes of blood in the urine. A blood test will be ordered to make sure your kidneys are functioning properly. A CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis also will be ordered to look for other possible causes of bleeding. Finally, your doctor will look for abnormalities in the transitional cells that line a portion of the kidneys and the ureter, which carries urine to the bladder. If abnormalities are detected, your primary care doctor will refer you to one of our urological oncologists.

What to expect during your visit with the urological oncologist
Your specialist will conduct a physical exam, feeling the abdomen and pelvis for possible tumors, and will review various test results. You also will be given a local anesthetic and undergo a cystoscopy, a procedure in which the doctor uses a thin, flexible scope to look in your bladder. If an abnormality is seen in your bladder during the cystoscopy, arrangements will be made for a surgical appointment to confirm your diagnosis.

To confirm a cancer diagnosis, you will be taken into surgery and put under general anesthesia. A scope will be passed into your bladder and some bladder muscle will be removed. (Details of this procedure will be explained to you at your pre-operative visit). Next, a pathologist will examine the tissue to confirm if it is cancer, as well as determine the stage (how deep the tumor is in the bladder) and grade (how serious the malignancy). 

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 


About 75% of tumors removed from the bladder have not invaded the bladder muscle. If during the cystoscopy your tumor appears to be non-invasive, a medicine called Mitomycin C  will be placed in your bladder to reduce chance of recurrence.  The drug is left in for one hour then drained.  Most patients return home after the procedure, and some will retain the catheter for a couple of days. Occasionally, patients are asked to stay overnight at the hospital.

Follow up
Your urologist will see you one to two weeks after surgery to review the grade and the stage of the tumor. Your treatment options will be based on these findings.  In general, if the tumor is low grade/low stage, you will not have any more treatment.  Because transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder has a 50 percent chance of returning after surgery, you will be asked to return to the clinic in three months for another cystoscopy.

If the tumor is high grade and low stage, you may be brought back for a follow-up cystoscopy in three months or you may have a medicine called BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin) placed in your bladder once a week for six weeks. Medical treatment is followed with another cystoscopy three months later. If the tumor has invaded the muscle, further therapy may be necessary and options include:

  • Bladder removal, called cystectomy.  If you do choose to have a cystectomy, UC Davis surgeons can build a new bladder from your intenstine (neobladder) or use a small portion of your bowel to carry urine to the outside, called an ileal conduit.
  • Chemotherapy followed by cystectomy.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

If your tumor has spread outside the bladder you will be set up to see one of our specialists in hematology and oncology for chemotherapy.

Clinical Trials
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has a large clinical trials network, allowing our patients access to the newest drugs and therapies before they become widely available. During all stages of your treatment you should talk to your medical specialist about what clinical trials may be available for you.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Your Team

Urologic Oncologists

Christopher P. Evans, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Professor and Chair, Department of Urology

Marc Dall'Era, M.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Urology

Stanley A. Yap, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Urology

Hematology and Oncology Team for Bladder Cancer

Primo Lara, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology

Chong-Xian Pan, M.D. Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology

Mamta Parikh, M.D., M.S.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology


Regina Gandour-Edwards, M.D.

Radiology - Nuclear Medicine

Cameron Foster, M.D.
Assistant Professor

Radiation Oncology

Richard Valicenti, M.D., M.A.
Department Chair of Radiation Oncology

Jyoti Mayadev, M.D. 
Assistant Professor


The UC Davis Bladder Cancer program is dedicated to treating the whole patient. We offer: